Serpentine Galleries, West Carriage Drive, Hyde Park, London, W2, United Kingdom

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The Magazine is attached to The Serpentine Galleries in Hyde Park.  The name is a reference from the history of the building, which was originally built in 1805 to store gunpowder, and became the Serpentine Sackler Art Gallery in September 2013. The restaurant is located in an annex to the main building, and was built by the famous architectural firm of Zaha Hadid, known for her use of curves and flowing shapes in her designs. The restaurant space is striking, with floor to ceiling windows and a white roof that appears to be oozing over the walls.  The dining room is airy and has plenty of natural light, the tables well spaced.

The head chef is Oliver Lange, a German cook interested in the food of Japan, and the menu is a fusion of western and Japanese food styles. Mr Lange worked previously at Frankfurt restaurant Silk, and was apparently in the kitchen today. The wine list had just over 60 labels and ranged in price from £22 to £915, with a median price of £45. Mark-ups averaged around 3.2 times the retail price, which is far from cheap though not the worst in central London. Example bottles were Haystack Journey’s End Chardonnay 2010 at £34.50 for a wine that you can find in the high street for £11, Fouassier Grand Champs 2012 at £55 compared to a retail price of £16, and Chateau La Tour Pibran 2009 at £82 for a wine that you can find in a shop for £22.

Tuna tartare was topped with salmon roe and garnished with puffed rice, spring onions and garlic crisps, with a sauce of mirin, sake and cardamom. This worked well with its contrasting textures, the seasoning of the tuna pleasantly bold (easily 13/20).

Donburi means “bowl”, and here involved pork belly grilled and finished in the oven, above a layer of thin shirataki (“white waterfall”) noodles made from yam, itself atop a layer of rice. On the side was a slow-cooked duck egg with a garnish of red onion powder, along with pickled ginger and cucumber on the side. The pork belly avoided too much fattiness, the noodles had good texture and the pickled elements provided useful balancing sharpness (14/20). 

A plate of assorted sushi was very much modern in style rather than traditional. I was pleased to see real wasabi root, grated at the table, instead of the cheaper powder or paste that so many London places try and get away with. Spicy salmon with avocado and cream cheese was deep fried and served warm. Lobster tempura came with figs and carpaccio of beef with a lobster reduction and crisp rosemary garnish.  Smoked trout with shiso (perilla) sushi came with sun-dried tomato and roasted nuts. Hamachi tartare came with mango and crisp ginger, and fried quail egg sushi was garnished with truffle pesto. Finally, crisp green asparagus was deep fried wrapped in nori, with rice smoked salmon and a reduction of tofu and a garnish of fennel and crumbled lavender. This came with a soy jelly rather than the usual soy sauce. This was all very elaborate, but didn’t entirely work for me. A cardinal rule of sushi is that the rice should be served at body temperature, yet the sushi rice here (except for the fried element) was fridge-cold. This was peculiar given the chef’s evident interest in this cuisine. In such a seasonal cuisine as Japanese it was also strange to see asparagus in November (12/20).

For dessert, mango and pineapple came with a little shanso (a Japanese pepper), shortbread, custard and meringue. The pepper was a bold idea but I thought it worked surprisingly well, adding a subtle hint of heat that worked fine with the tropical fruits (14/20).

Coffee was from Caravan and was mild and pleasant. Service was friendly, the waiter very helpful. The bill at lunch was £33 a head with just water to drink. If you went for dinner and shared a modest bottle of wine then a realistic all-in bill might be around £70 or so per head. Although some dishes worked better than others, overall I enjoyed Magazine. The chef is clearly going for originality, but mostly retained a good balance of flavours in his dishes. This quite modern food feels appropriate in the spaceship-like building.

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